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Appalled Cardinal Banned Sharp Table Knives: Lewis Lapham

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Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) -- For a long time, European diners brought personal knives to the table. Eating with a strange utensil was as unthinkable as using another’s toothbrush.

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The specially made, decorated knife was housed in a sheath and worn on belt or girdle. It was kept honed, ready for slicing bread, spearing meat and defending one’s honor.

In 1637, Cardinal Richelieu was at a formal dinner when he saw a guest use the sharp tip of a double-edged knife to pick his teeth.

Appalled, the adviser to King Louis XIII ordered that all his own knives be ground down and rounded off -- creating the version still in use today. It became the rage, and in 1669 Louis XIV made it illegal for French cutlers to forge pointed dinner knives.

I spoke with Bee Wilson, author of “Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat,” on the following topics:

1. Food Technology

2. Knife: Tooth Aide

3. Laughable Forks

4. Focus on Fridge

5. Caffeine Cravings

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at lhl@laphamsquarterly.org.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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